Friday Book Design Blog: A book with a hole in it, and other ephemera
In France they call it la rentrée – the return, the re-entering, the re-immersion – that September time when holidays end, school starts, work demands full concentration… and all the books out. In an Autumnal version of spring-cleaning, then, I’d like to use this post to highlight some of the stranger, more ephemeral bits of book design that have caught my eye, or come across my desk, over the past few months – those that haven’t quite called for a full post all to themselves, and apologies to them for that.
Vexillology is not new, but I only spotted it recently (on the super-interesting Good Press Gallery website) and it features a radical usage of that occasional cover design feature, the ‘keyhole’, meaning a hole cut through the cover. Only here it runs all the way through the book – something you might get for cutsey-pie reasons in a children’s picture book, but which here is far more destabilising – for while it cuts through the pages, no account for this has been taken in the interior typesetting, meaning that huge circular chunks of text and image are simply lost. Well, it was a special publication to mark a Dadaist contribution to the 2010 Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, so that, you’d have to say, is fair enough.
Also picked up from Good Press was an issue of Justified, a magazine offering “a concise insight into contemporary design and photography” – it costs just £4 and really offers a marginal, low-rent alternative to magazines like AnOther Magazine and Dazed and Confused – it could well be that the people in Justified will be featured or working in those more mainstream magazines at some point in the future.
I’ve shown the back cover of Clinic III rather than the front, because I prefer it – a nastily coloured cartoon by Kyle Platts that perhaps matches, perhaps doesn’t the poetry inside. But it’s well produced, and the mix of artwork and text is understated and open to interpretation, rather than heavily prescriptive.
F.R. David is an English language journal that comes out of the De Appel arts centre in Amsterdam. For some reason – I haven’t enquired too thoroughly – it is named after the French singer best known in the UK for his song Words (as in “don’t come easy… to me”). The book-shaped journal is a lovely curated selection of poems, text pieces, essays, extracts and the like that pit some familiar names (e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, Helen DeWitt, Clarice Lispector, Chris Krauss) against many others unknown – to me at least. With a pull-out and two bookmarks, it is a book to explore, rather than simply read.
Something I picked up from the counter of my local indie bookshop was a pamphlet produced by Bloomsbury containing Ann Patchett’s essay (originally published in The Atlantic) ‘The Bookshop Strikes Back’, about her decision to open a bookshop in her hometown of Nashville when the two – profitable – chain stores were unaccountably closed. It’s small and cute and preaching to the converted (you’re really only going to buy it if you already patronise a physical bookshop) but at least shows that a major indie publisher like Bloomsbury is open to different approaches to publishing.
Patchett’s pamphlet might once have been published as a broadside – an essay printed on one side only of a sheet of paper – which is something that Hoax approaches but doesn’t quite match. It’s printed on two sides of an A3 sheet, which is folded and posted out from Hoax Publication for a posting and packing charge of £1. It styles itself as a “literary venture to present all forms of creative, text-based work as equal and to remove useless definitions of what creative work can be”, which means I’d better as say as little as possible about what it contains… other than, well, as with the Patchett, you get the feeling it will take a long time for people to stop producing print artefacts altogether.
Finally, heads up for two events in London that should appeal to anyone interested in book design. There is a free exhibition in the ICA Fox Reading Room presenting work from award-winning typographer and book designer Jerry Cinamon, who pops up in my Penguin By Design and Seven Hundred Penguins. Going along with the exhibition on 13 September there is a talk by David Pearson (recurrent name in this blog, best known for his work on the Penguin Great Ideas series, and his covers for Pushkin Press) on text design at Penguin.
Secondly, there is Stories From The Fold a mini-conference on book design at the St Bride Foundation on the evening of 25 September, featuring short talks from people such as Clare Skeats (who worked with Pearson on the recent Pushkin Press design overhaul), Jon Gray, aka Gray318, for my money one of the very best cover designers in the country at the moment, and Ligaya Salazar and Sam Winston, who worked with Hari Kunzru on the innovative ‘exhibition experience’ Making Memory Palace showing at the V&A. Details here.
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